A

Acceleration Clause

A provision in a mortgage that gives the lender the right to demand payment of the entire principal balance if a monthly payment is missed.

Acceptance

An offeree’s consent to enter into a contract and be bound by the terms of the offer.

Additional Principal Payment

A payment by a borrower of more than the scheduled principal amount due in order to reduce the remaining balance on the loan.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)

A mortgage that permits the lender to adjust its interest rate periodically on the basis of changes in a specified index.

Adjusted Basis

The original cost of a property plus the value of any capital expenditures for improvements to the property minus any depreciation taken.

Adjustment Date

The date on which the interest rate changes for an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).

Adjustment Period

The period that elapses between the adjustment dates for an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).

Administrator

A person appointed by a probate court to administer the estate of a person who died intestate.

Affidavits

A formal sworn statement of fact. As part of the closing process, you’re likely to sign numerous affidavits. You may be required, for example, to sign an affidavit of occupancy. It states that you will use the property as a principal residence. Or, you and the seller may have to sign an affidavit stating all of the improvements to the property required in the sales contract were completed before closing.

Your lender can provide additional information regarding any of these documents you will sign.

Affordability Analysis

A detailed analysis of your ability to afford the purchase of a home. An affordability analysis takes into consideration your income, liabilities, and available funds, along with the type of mortgage you plan to use, the area where you want to purchase a home, and the closing costs that you might expect to pay.

Amenity

A feature of real property that enhances its attractiveness and increases the occupant’s or user’s satisfaction although the feature is not essential to the property’s use. Natural amenities include a pleasant or desirable location near water, scenic views of the surrounding area, etc. Human-made amenities include swimming pools, tennis courts, community buildings, and other recreational facilities.

Amortization

The gradual repayment of a mortgage loan by installments.

Amortization Term

The amount of time required to amortize the mortgage loan. The amortization term is expressed as a number of months. For example, for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the amortization term is 360 months.

Amortize

To repay a mortgage with regular payments that cover both principal and interest.

Amotization Schedule

A timetable for payment of a mortgage loan. An amortization schedule shows the amount of each payment applied to interest and principal and shows the remaining balance after each payment is made.

Annual Mortgagor Statement

A report sent to the mortgagor each year. The report shows how much was paid in taxes and interest during the year, as well as the remaining mortgage loan balance at the end of the year.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

The cost of a mortgage stated as a yearly rate; includes such items as interest, mortgage insurance, and loan origination fee (points).

Annuity

An amount paid yearly or at other regular intervals, often on a guaranteed dollar basis.

Application

A form used to apply for a mortgage loan and to record pertinent information concerning a prospective mortgagor and the proposed security.

*See also “Loan Application” entry.

Appraisal

A written analysis of the estimated value of a property prepared by a qualified appraiser. Contrast with home inspection.

Appraised Value

An opinion of a property’s fair market value, based on an appraiser’s knowledge, experience, and analysis of the property.

Appraiser

A person qualified by education, training, and experience to estimate the value of real property and personal property.

Appreciation

An increase in the value of a property due to changes in market conditions or other causes. The opposite of depreciation.

Assessed Value

The valuation placed on property by a public tax assessor for purposes of taxation.

Assessment

The process of placing a value on property for the strict purpose of taxation. May also refer to a levy against property for a special purpose, such as a sewer assessment.

Assessment Rolls

The public record of taxable property.

Assessor

A public official who establishes the value of a property for taxation purposes.

Asset

Anything of monetary value that is owned by a person. Assets include real property, personal property, and enforceable claims against others (including bank accounts, stocks, mutual funds, and so on).

Assignment

The transfer of a mortgage from one person to another.

Assumable Mortgage

A mortgage that can be taken over (“assumed”) by the buyer when a home is sold.

A provision in an assumable mortgage allows a buyer to assume responsibility for the mortgage from the seller. The loan does not need to be paid in full by the original borrower upon the sale or transfer of the property.

Assumption

The transfer of the seller’s existing mortgage to the buyer.

*See also “Assumable Mortgage” entry.

Assumption Clause

A provision in an assumable mortgage that allows a buyer to assume responsibility for the mortgage from the seller. The loan does not need to be paid in full by the original borrower upon sale or transfer of the property.

Assumption Fee

The fee paid to a lender (usually by the purchaser of real property) resulting from the assumption of an existing mortgage.

Attorney-In-Fact

One who holds a power of attorney from another to execute documents on behalf of the grantor of the power.

Automated Underwriting

After you complete your loan application with a lender, it is sent to “underwriting” for review. In short, underwriting is the process used to analyze how you have managed credit obligations in the past, whether you have the ability to repay the mortgage loan you are applying for (i.e., your income and assets), and whether the price you are willing to pay for the home is supported by the price of the property.

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B

Balance Sheet

A financial statement that shows assets, liabilities, and net worth as of a specific date.

Balloon Mortgage

A mortgage that has level monthly payments that will amortize it over a stated term but that provides for a lump sum payment to be due at the end of an earlier specified term.

Balloon Payment

The final lump sum payment that is made at the maturity date of a balloon mortgage.

Bankrupt

A person, firm, or corporation that, through a court proceeding, is relieved from the payment of all debts after the surrender of all assets to a court-appointed trustee.

Bankruptcy

A proceeding in a federal court in which a debtor who owes more than his or her assets can relieve the debts by transferring his or her assets to a trustee.

Before-Tax Income

Income before taxes are deducted.

Beneficiary

The person designated to receive the income from a trust, estate, or a deed of trust.

Bequeath

To transfer personal property through a will.

Betterment

An improvement that increases property value as distinguished from repairs or replacements that simply maintain value.

Bill of Sale

A written document that transfers title to personal property.

Binder

A preliminary agreement, secured by the payment of an earnest money deposit, under which a buyer offers to purchase real estate.

Biweekly Mortgages

Your lender will probably tell you that a biweekly mortgage is structured just like a traditional fixed-rate, level-payment, fully amortizing mortgage. However, you make your payments every 14 days instead of once a month. The monthly payment is split in half, resulting in the same total monthly mortgage, but the resulting 26 and sometimes 27 biweekly payments a year translate into 13 monthly payments, or one extra monthly payment per year.

Borrowers can qualify for a 30-year monthly payment amount, but get a loan that pays off in approximately 22 years at current interest rates. At higher rates, the actual term declines.

If you are looking to build up equity in your home faster without the higher mortgage payments that come with a shorter-term mortgage, you may want to consider the biweekly mortgage. Payments can be deducted from your bank account and scheduled to coincide with your payroll deposits to simplify budgeting. Lenders may charge an initial set-up fee to automatically debit your checking account.

Blanket Insurance Policy

A single policy that covers more than one piece of property (or more than one person).

Blanket Mortgage

The mortgage that is secured by a cooperative project, as opposed to the share loans on individual units within the project.

Bona Fide

In good faith, without fraud.

Bond

An interest-bearing certificate of debt with a maturity date. An obligation of a government or business corporation. A real estate bond is a written obligation usually secured by a mortgage or a deed of trust.

Breach

A violation of any legal obligation.

Bridge Loan

A form of second trust that is collateralized by the borrower’s present home (which is usually for sale) in a manner that allows the proceeds to be used for closing on a new house before the present home is sold. Also known as “swing loan.”

Broker

A person who, for a commission or a fee, brings parties together and assists in negotiating contracts between them.

Budget

A detailed plan of income and expenses expected over a certain period of time. A budget can provide guidelines for managing future investments and expenses.

Budget Category

A category of income or expense data that you can use in a budget. You can also define your own budget categories and add them to some or all of the budgets you create. “Rent” is an example of an expense category. “Salary” is a typical income category.

Building Code

Local regulations that control design, construction, and materials used in construction. Building codes are based on safety and health standards.

Buydown Account

An account in which funds are held so that they can be applied as part of the monthly mortgage payment as each payment comes due during the period that an interest rate buydown plan is in effect.

Buydown Mortgage

A temporary buydown is a mortgage on which an initial lump sum payment is made by any party to reduce a borrower’s monthly payments during the first few years of a mortgage. A permanent buydown reduces the interest rate over the entire life of a mortgage.

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C

Call Option

A provision in the mortgage that gives the mortgagee the right to call the mortgage due and payable at the end of a specified period for whatever reason.

Cap

A provision of an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) that limits how much the interest rate or mortgage payments may increase or decrease.

*See also “lifetime payment cap”, “lifetime rate cap”, “periodic payment cap”, and “periodic rate cap”.

Capacity

Lenders will want to know if you can repay the mortgage debt you incur -- this is known as your capacity. Lenders will base their evaluation on employment information, how long you’ve worked, and how much you are paid. Lenders will also review your expenses and any other debt obligations you have. This means they’ll want to know how many dependents you have and whether you pay any alimony or child support, for example.

Capital

 

  1. Money used to create income, either as an investment in a business or an income property.
  2. The money or property comprising the wealth owned or used by a person or business enterprise.
  3. The accumulated wealth of a person or business.
  4. The net worth of a business represented by the amount by which its assets exceed liabilities.

 

Capital Expenditure

The cost of an improvement made to extend the useful life of a property or to add to its value.

Capital Improvement

Any structure or component erected as a permanent improvement to real property that adds to its value and useful life.

Cash-Out Refinance

A refinance transaction in which the amount of money received from the new loan exceeds the total of the money needed to repay the existing first mortgage, closing costs, points, and the amount required to satisfy any outstanding subordinate mortgage liens. In other words, a refinance transaction in which the borrower receives additional cash that can be used for any purpose.

CD-Indexed (Certificate of Deposit) ARMs

The Certificate of Deposit index represents the weekly average of secondary market interest rates on six-month negotiable CDs.

The initial interest rate and payments adjust every six months after an initial six-month period.

ARMs with this index typically come with a per-adjustment cap of 1 percent and a lifetime rate cap of 6 percent.

Certificate of Deposit

A document written by a bank or other financial institution that is evidence of a deposit, with the issuer’s promise to return the deposit plus earnings at a specified interest rate within a specified time period.

*See also “Adjustable-Rate Mortgage” entry.

Certificate of Deposit Index

An index that is used to determine interest rate changes for certain ARM plans. It represents the weekly average of secondary market interest rates on six-month negotiable certificates of deposit.

*See also “Adjustable-Rate Mortgage” entry.

Certificate of Eligibility

A document issued by the federal government certifying a veteran’s eligibility for a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mortgage.

Certificate of Reasonable Value (CRV)

A document issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that establishes the maximum value and loan amount for a VA mortgage.

Certificate of Title

A statement provided by an abstract company, title company, or attorney stating that the title to real estate is legally held by the current owner.

Chain of Title

The history of all of the documents that transfer title to a parcel of real property, starting with the earliest existing document and ending with the most recent.

Change Frequency

The frequency (in months) of payment and/or interest rate changes in an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).

Change Orders

After construction begins, you may discover that you need to make unplanned and necessary changes to the work. The contingency reserve covers unforeseen repairs or deficiencies found during renovation. Unnecessary additions or changes are treated differently.

These change orders are considered discretionary and must first be approved by your lender. You must deposit additional funds to pay for the work in the escrow account before work on the changes begins. These change orders - as well as any that result from unforeseen repairs - must be added as amendments to your construction contract.

Chattel

Another name for personal property.

Clear Title

A title that is free of liens or legal questions as to ownership of the property.

Closing

A meeting at which a sale of a property is finalized by the buyer signing the mortgage documents and paying closing costs. Also called “settlement”.

*See also “Settlement” entry.

Closing Agent

As a potential home buyer, you will need a closing (or “settlement”) agent to coordinate the various closing activities. These can include but are not limited to preparing and recording the closing documents and disbursing funds.

The types of services provided by a closing agent depend on the person you hire, but typically the closing is conducted by title companies, escrow companies or attorneys. It is usually held at the lender’s or real estate sales professional’s office.

Closing Cost Item

A fee or amount that a home buyer must pay at closing for a single service, tax, or product. Closing costs are made up of individual closing cost items such as origination fees and attorney’s fees. Many closing cost items are included as numbered items on the HUD-1 statement.

Closing Costs

Expenses (over and above the price of the property) incurred by buyers and sellers in transferring ownership of a property. Closing costs normally include an origination fee, an attorney’s fee, taxes, an amount placed in escrow, and charges for obtaining title insurance and a survey. Closing costs percentage will vary according to the area of the country; lenders or REALTORS® often provide estimates of closing costs to prospective homebuyers.

Closing Date

After your lender has approved your mortgage and you accept the commitment letter, the next step is to set a closing date. Many times, your real estate sales professional coordinates the setting of this date with you, the seller, the closing agent, and your lender.

Remember, you need to ensure that the closing occurs before your lender’s commitment letter - and the rate lock-in, if there is one - expire. You can now finalize your moving plans.

Cloud on Title

Any conditions revealed by a title search that adversely affect the title to real estate. Usually clouds on title cannot be removed except by a quitclaim deed, release, or court action.

Co-Maker

A person who signs a promissory note along with the borrower. A co-maker’s signature guarantees that the loan will be repaid, because the borrower and the co-maker are equally responsible for the repayment.

Coinsurance

A sharing of insurance risk between the insurer and the insured. Coinsurance depends on the relationship between the amount of the policy and a specified percentage of the actual value of the property insured at the time of the loss.

Coinsurance Clause

A provision in a hazard insurance policy that states the amount of coverage that must be maintained - as a percentage of the total value of the property - for the insured to collect the full amount of a loss.

Collateral

An asset (such as a car or a home) that guarantees the repayment of a loan. The borrower risks losing the asset if the loan is not repaid according to the terms of the loan contract.

Collection

The efforts used to bring a delinquent mortgage current and to file the necessary notices to proceed with foreclosure when necessary.

Commercial Banks

Commercial banks, like thrifts, originate and service mortgage loans. In some cases, commercial banks may have mortgage banking subsidiaries that perform this function. Banks may choose to hold a loan in their own portfolio or sell the loan to an investor.

Commission

The fee charged by a broker or agent for negotiating a real estate or loan transaction. A commission is generally a percentage of the price of the property or loan.

Commitment Letter

A formal offer by a lender stating the terms under which it agrees to lend money to a homebuyer. Also known as a “loan commitment”.

Common Area Assessments

Levies against individual unit owners in a condominium or planned unit development (PUD) project for additional capital to defray homeowners’ association costs and expenses and to repair, replace, maintain, improve, or operate the common areas of the project.

Common Areas

Those portions of a building, land, and amenities owned (or managed) by a planned unit development (PUD) or condominium project’s homeowners’ association (or a cooperative project’s cooperative corporation) that are used by all of the unit owners, who share in the common expenses of their operation and maintenance. Common areas include swimming pools, tennis courts, and other recreational facilities, as well as common corridors of buildings, parking areas, means of ingress and egress, etc.

Common Law

An unwritten body of law based on general custom in England and used to an extent in the United States.

Community Land Trust Mortgage Option

An alternative financing option that enables low- and moderate-income home buyers to purchase housing that has been improved by a nonprofit Community Land Trust and to lease the land on which the property stands.

Community Property

In some western and southwestern states, a form of ownership under which property acquired during a marriage is presumed to be owned jointly unless acquired as separate property of either spouse.

Community Seconds

An alternative financing option for low- and moderate-income households under which an investor purchases a first mortgage that has a subsidized second mortgage behind it. The second mortgage may be issued by a state, county, or local housing agency, foundation, or nonprofit organization. Payment on the second mortgage is often deferred and carries a very low interest rate (or no interest rate at all). Part of the debt may be forgiven incrementally for each year the buyer remains in the home.

Comparables

An abbreviation for “comparable properties”; used for comparative purposes in the appraisal process. Comparables are properties like the property under consideration; they have reasonably the same size, location, and amenities and have recently been sold. Comparables help the appraiser determine the approximate fair market value of the subject property.

Compound Interest

Interest paid on the original principal balance and on the accrued and unpaid interest.

Condemnation

The determination that a building is not fit for use or is dangerous and must be destroyed; the taking of private property for a public purpose through an exercise of the right of eminent domain.

Condition of the Home

Potential homeowners should know of major problems in a home before they make an offer. As a potential buyer, you should carefully examine all elements of the home. Ask questions to the seller and the real estate sales professional about any concerns you may have. Both the seller and the real estate agent can be held liable if they do not disclose any defects they know about in the home.

Condominium

A real estate project in which each unit owner has title to a unit in a building, an undivided interest in the common areas of the project, and sometimes the exclusive use of certain limited common areas.

Condominium Conversion

Changing the ownership of an existing building (usually a rental project) to the condominium form of ownership.

Condominium Hotel

A condominium project that has rental or registration desks, short-term occupancy, food and telephone services, and daily cleaning services and that is operated as a commercial hotel even though the units are individually owned.

Construction Contract

The terms and conditions of any major renovation job should be part of a formal, legally binding contract between you and your contractor - this is called the construction contract. The lender you choose will likely want to review this contract before you sign it.

Construction Loan

A short-term, interim loan for financing the cost of construction. The lender makes payments to the builder at periodic intervals as the work progresses.

Contingencies for Repairs

In your purchase offer, you may consider stating that the seller must make sure the electrical systems, heating and cooling, plumbing, and mechanical systems are functioning properly at the closing. You may also state that your purchase is contingent upon the satisfactory completion of a professional home inspection, which will check these systems and other elements more completely. These are both ways to ensure that surprises don’t arise when your moving day arrives.

If you do not include this clause in your contract, you are essentially accepting the house “as is.”

Contingency

A condition that must be met before a contract is legally binding. For example, home purchasers often include a contingency that specifies that the contract is not binding until the purchaser obtains a satisfactory home inspection report from a qualified home inspector.

Contingency for Clear Title

Your purchase contract should include a contingency that the purchase is subject to your receiving clear title to the property. This process includes a title search and title insurance.

Contingency for Financing

When you make a formal offer on a house, your contract should include a financing contingency. It specifies if you don’t get the money you need to purchase the house at the terms you want, the offer is void and you will be refunded your deposit.

Don’t be surprised if the seller includes a clause in the contract that states you must make a “good faith effort” to get the mortgage. This is the seller’s way to ensure that you explore all options to get a mortgage loan.

Contingency for Personal Property

Your purchase contract should specify appliances, fixtures, and other personal property that must remain in the home. You can avoid any surprises by listing in your contract everything that is to be left behind when the seller moves out.

Contingency Reserve

Most mortgages for purchase-renovation require an additional 10 percent of the total cost of the project to be put aside into a reserve account. This contingency reserve is only used when unforeseen repairs or deficiencies are found during renovation.

Contract

An oral or written agreement to do or not to do a certain thing.

Contractor

A general contractor is a person who oversees a construction project and handles aspects such as scheduling workers and ordering supplies.

Conventional Mortgage

A mortgage that is not insured or guaranteed by the federal government. Contrast with government mortgage.

Convertibility Clause

A provision in some adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) that allows the borrower to change the ARM to a fixed-rate mortgage at specified timeframes after loan origination.

Convertible ARM

An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) that can be converted to a fixed-rate mortgage under specified conditions.

Cooperative (co-op)

A type of multiple ownership in which the residents of a multiunit housing complex own shares in the cooperative corporation that owns the property, giving each resident the right to occupy a specific apartment or unit.

Cooperative Corporation

A business trust entity that holds title to a cooperative project and grants occupancy rights to particular apartments or units to shareholders through proprietary leases or similar arrangements. A business trust entity that holds title to a cooperative project and grants occupancy rights to particular apartments or units to shareholders through proprietary leases or similar arrangements.

Cooperative Mortgages

Mortgages related to a cooperative project. This usually refers to the multifamily mortgage covering the entire project but occasionally describes the share loans on the individual units.

Cooperative Project

A residential or mixed-use building wherein a corporation or trust holds title to the property and sells shares of stock representing the value of a single apartment unit to individuals who, in turn, receive a proprietary lease as evidence of title.

Corporate Relocation

Arrangements under which an employer moves an employee to another area as part of the employer’s normal course of business or under which it transfers a substantial part or all of its operations and employees to another area because it is relocating its headquarters or expanding its office capacity.

Cost of Funds Index (COFI)

An index that is used to determine interest rate changes for certain adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) plans. It represents the weighted-average cost of savings, borrowings, and advances of the 11th District members of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco.

*See also “adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)”.

Costs of Settling Into Your Home

When figuring out how much home you can afford, you need to account for the costs associated with getting into your home.

These can include the cost for repairs that need to be made before you can occupy your residence. There may also be the cost of purchasing appliances, such as a washer and dryer, refrigerator, or stove.

The bottom line is you do not want to spend all your money on purchasing the home and not have any left to pay these types of costs.

Covenant

A clause in a mortgage that obligates or restricts the borrower and that, if violated, can result in foreclosure.

Credit

An agreement in which a borrower receives something of value in exchange for a promise to repay the lender at a later date.

Credit Bureau

The three main credit reporting agencies, or credit bureaus, are Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. You can order a copy of your credit report (a nominal fee may apply) via telephone at:

* Equifax: (800) 685-1111

* Trans Union: (800) 916-8800

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* Experian: (800) 682-7654

Credit History

A record of an individual’s open and fully repaid debts. A credit history helps a lender to determine whether a potential borrower has a history of repaying debts in a timely manner.

Credit Life Insurance

A type of insurance often bought by mortgagors because it will pay off the mortgage debt if the mortgagor dies while the policy is in force.

Credit Profile

There are several ways to ensure you have a good credit report and credit score. One of the most effective is to manage your existing credit in a positive way.

Ask your lender for suggestions about ways to control the amount of money you owe. Or, you can choose a credit counselor from the list provided on this site. Some lenders may view consumers as a greater risk if they have used most or all of their available credit. Consumers who are considered “overextended” may be viewed this way even if they have made all their debt payments on time.

Missing a payment on a bill should be avoided, as should late payments on any of your credit obligations. Experiencing a mortgage foreclosure, filing for bankruptcy, or having your vehicle repossessed can also affect your credit score and credit report, limiting your ability to get new credit at a reasonable rate.

Credit Report

A report of an individual’s credit history prepared by a credit bureau and used by a lender in determining a loan applicant’s creditworthiness.

Credit Report Fee

The credit report fee covers the lender’s cost for ordering your credit report from a credit bureau.

This report will verify some of the information you provided on your loan application as well as additional information from the credit agency’s files and from public records.

When a credit report is received, your lender will check it against your application and look for any discrepancies. You may be asked to explain information in your credit report.

Credit Reporting Agency

An organization that prepares reports that are used by lenders to determine a potential borrower’s credit history. The agency obtains data for these reports from a credit repository as well as from other sources.

The three main credit reporting agencies, or credit bureaus, are Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. You can order a copy of your credit report (a nominal fee may apply) via telephone at:

* Equifax: (800) 685-1111

* Trans Union: (800) 916-8800

* Experian: (800) 682-7654

Credit Repository

An organization that gathers, records, updates, and stores financial and public records information about the payment records of individuals who are being considered for credit.

Credit Scoring

Your credit score is based on all the information in your credit report. This information is converted into a number - a credit score - that the lender uses to determine whether you are likely to repay your loan in a timely manner. The scores used in mortgage lending are typically in the 300 to 900 range. A general guide is that the higher your score the better. But you should keep in mind that your credit score is just one of several factors that will be used to evaluate your mortgage loan application.

Credit Unions

A credit union is a financial institution that is owned and run by its members. It is a nonprofit, cooperative institution that offers members a place to save and borrow. A credit union often works by having its members pool their funds so additional loans can be made to other members.

Creditor

A person to whom money is owed.

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D

Debt

An amount owed to another. See installment loan and revolving liability.

Deed

The legal document conveying title to a property.

The deed is the document that transfers ownership from the seller to you. Only the seller signs the deed at closing, and you’ll receive a copy of it.

The closing agent will record the deed with you listed as the new property owner. Your name and the names of any other buyers appear on the deed, and it will be sent to you after it is recorded.

Deed of Trust

The document used in some states instead of a mortgage; title is conveyed to a trustee.

In some states, a “deed of trust” is used instead of a mortgage. When homeowners sign a deed of trust, they receive title to the property but convey title to a neutral third party - called a trustee - until the loan balance is paid in full.

Deed-in-Lieu

A deed given by a mortgagor to the mortgagee to satisfy a debt and avoid foreclosure. Also called a “voluntary conveyance.”

Default

Failure to make mortgage payments on a timely basis or to comply with other requirements of a mortgage.

Delinquency

Failure to make mortgage payments when mortgage payments are due.

Department of Veterans Affairs

An agency of the federal government that guarantees residential mortgages made to eligible veterans of the military services. The guarantee protects the lender against loss and thus encourages lenders to make mortgages to veterans.

The Veterans Administration is a federal government agency authorized to guarantee loans made to eligible veterans under certain conditions. To obtain more information, you can contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The qualification guidelines for VA loans are more flexible than those for either the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or conventional loans.

If you are a qualified veteran, this can be an attractive mortgage program. To determine whether you are eligible, check with your nearest VA regional office.

Deposit

A sum of money given to bind the sale of real estate, or a sum of money given to ensure payment or an advance of funds in the processing of a loan.

See earnest money deposit.

Depreciation

A decline in the value of property; the opposite of appreciation.

Detached Single-Family Home

The most traditional type of single-family home is one that is “detached.” This type of home stands separate from any other housing structure and serves as a place of residence for the occupants.

Direct Leveraging Loan Program

The Direct Leveraging Loan Program makes it easier and more economical for rural residents to own a home through lower interest rates and no down payment.

Under this program, the lender offers up to 50 percent of the mortgage amount as a conventional 30-year, fixed-rate first mortgage and the Rural Housing Service (RHS) offers the balance as a second mortgage at an interest rate that is generally below market.

The RHS is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Discount points

Discount points are often used to describe a type of fee that lenders charge. Discount points are additional funds you pay the lender at closing to get a lower interest rate on your mortgage.

A point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. So, if you and your lender agree to a mortgage of $100,000, one point would equal $1,000.

Typically, each point you pay for a 30-year loan lowers your interest rate by .125 of a percentage point. If the current interest rate on a 30-year mortgage is 7.75 percent, paying one point would lower the interest rate to 7.625.

Ask your lender if you have the option of paying 1, 2, or 3 discount points - or you can choose not to pay any discount points. It often makes more sense to pay discount points if you plan to stay in your home for a long time.

Dower

The rights of a widow in the property of her husband at his death.

Down Payment

The part of the purchase price of a property that the buyer pays in cash and does not finance with a mortgage.

Saving for a down payment is usually one of the most difficult parts of preparing to buy a home. If you believe you have the needed funds, you are in a better position to seek pre-qualification from a lender to get the mortgage that is right for you.

Most homeowners rely on a mortgage from a financial institution, and most mortgage products require buyers to include a portion of their own funds towards the purchase of the home. This is called the down payment. Lenders feel more secure when buyers include a down payment, indicating they are less likely to walk away from their investment if their finances take a downturn.

Historically, buyers usually made a down payment that totaled 20 percent of the home’s purchase price. Under this scenario, a down payment for a $100,000 home is $20,000. But today, new mortgage products allow buyers to put down as little as 3 percent to 5 percent, provided private mortgage insurance is obtained. The down payment for a $100,000 home with 5 percent down payment is just $5,000.

Sources for down payments may come from buyers’ savings accounts, checking accounts, stocks and bonds, life insurance policies, and gifts.

Due-on-sale Provision

A provision in a mortgage that allows the lender to demand repayment in full if the borrower sells the property that serves as security for the mortgage.

Due-on-transfer Provision

This terminology is usually used for second mortgages.

*See also “due-on-sale provision”.

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E

Earnest Money Deposit

A deposit made by the potential home buyer to show that he or she is serious about buying the house.

The earnest money deposit is a “good-faith” payment you submit with your offer on a home to show the seller you are serious about proceeding.

The earnest money is deposited in an escrow account and will be applied to your closing costs.

Sometimes, your lender will want you to bring a receipt for the earnest money deposit along with your sales contract to the initial loan application meeting.

Easement

A right of way giving persons other than the owner access to or over a property.

Effective Age

An appraiser’s estimate of the physical condition of a building. The actual age of a building may be shorter or longer than its effective age.

Effective Gross Income

Normal annual income including overtime that is regular or guaranteed. The income may be from more than one source. Salary is generally the principal source, but other income may qualify if it is significant and stable.

Eminent Domain

The right of a government to take private property for public use upon payment of its fair market value. Eminent domain is the basis for condemnation proceedings.

Encroachment

An improvement that intrudes illegally on another’s property.

Encumbrance

Anything that affects or limits the fee simple title to a property, such as mortgages, leases, easements, or restrictions.

Endorser

A person who signs ownership interest over to another party. Contrast with co-maker.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA)

A federal law that requires lenders and other creditors to make credit equally available without discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, marital status, or receipt of income from public assistance programs.

Equity

A homeowner’s financial interest in a property. Equity is the difference between the fair market value of the property and the amount still owed on its mortgage.

A lender determines how much equity you have in your home by taking the appraised value of the home and subtracting any mortgage debt.

For example, if your house is valued at $150,000 and your mortgage balance is $80,000, you have $70,000 equity in the house.

Errors in Credit Report

Your credit report may contain inaccuracies. The best way to ensure there are no errors in your credit report is to request copies and review the information.

Since each of the main credit bureaus keeps its own records, you may want to request copies from all three: Trans Union, Equifax, and Experian.

If you have been turned down for credit because of the information in your credit report, you are entitled to receive a free copy of your report within 60 days of the denial. If you haven’t been denied credit, you can still request a copy of your credit report, usually for a nominal fee.

If you find errors in your report, follow the directions in the credit report and contact the agencies to have the errors corrected. They will investigate the targeted items and remove incorrect information.

You don’t have to delay applying for a mortgage while errors in your report are being corrected. Explain the discrepancies in the report to your lender and state that the credit agency is correcting them.

Escrow

An item of value, money, or documents deposited with a third party to be delivered upon the fulfillment of a condition. For example, the deposit by a borrower with the lender of funds to pay taxes and insurance premiums when they become due, or the deposit of funds or documents with an attorney or escrow agent to be disbursed upon the closing of a sale of real estate.

Escrow Account

The account in which a mortgage servicer holds the borrower’s escrow payments prior to paying property expenses.

An escrow account is money that is deposited with a third party - outside the buyer and the seller - to be used to pay various fees. A borrower typically provides funds that will pay taxes, mortgage insurance, lease payments, hazard insurance premiums, and other payments when they are due.

An escrow payment by the holder of a mortgage is also known as “impounds” or “reserves” in some states.

When escrow funds are used to pay taxes, hazard insurance, and other fees, it is called an escrow disbursement. Periodically, an escrow analysis will be performed to determine if current monthly deposits provide sufficient funds to pay bills when they are due.

Escrow Analysis

The periodic examination of escrow accounts to determine if current monthly deposits will provide sufficient funds to pay taxes, insurance, and other bills when due.

Escrow Collections

Funds collected by the servicer and set aside in an escrow account to pay the borrower’s property taxes, mortgage insurance, and hazard insurance.

Escrow Disbursements

The use of escrow funds to pay real estate taxes, hazard insurance, mortgage insurance, and other property expenses as they become due.

Escrow Payment

The portion of a mortgagor’s monthly payment that is held by the servicer to pay for taxes, hazard insurance, mortgage insurance, lease payments, and other items as they become due. Known as “impounds” or “reserves” in some states.

Establishing a Credit Report

It is possible to establish a credit history even if you do not have a traditional credit record that shows credit card payments or payments on a student or car loan.

You can build a nontraditional credit history, for example, by documenting your monthly payments to previous and current landlords; to utility companies for your gas, water and telephone services; and to insurance companies for medical, life, and automobile coverage.

Your lender can provide further details on how you can effectively establish a credit record.

Estate

The ownership interest of an individual in real property. The sum total of all the real property and personal property owned by an individual at time of death.

Eviction

The lawful expulsion of an occupant from real property.

Examination of Title

The report on the title of a property from the public records or an abstract of the title.

Exclusive Listing

A written contract that gives a licensed real estate agent the exclusive right to sell a property for a specified time, but reserving the owner’s right to sell the property alone without the payment of a commission.

Executor

A person named in a will to administer an estate. The court will appoint an administrator if no executor is named. “Executrix” is the feminine form.

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F

Fair Credit Reporting Act

A consumer protection law that regulates the disclosure of consumer credit reports by consumer/credit reporting agencies and establishes procedures for correcting mistakes on one’s credit record.

Fair Market Value

The highest price that a buyer, willing but not compelled to buy, would pay, and the lowest a seller, willing but not compelled to sell, would accept.

Fannie Mae (FNMA)

A New York Stock Exchange company and the largest non-bank financial services company in the world. It operates pursuant to a federal charter and is the nation’s largest source of financing for home mortgages.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

An agency of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Its main activity is the insuring of residential mortgage loans made by private lenders. The FHA sets standards for construction and underwriting but does not lend money or plan or construct housing.

Fee Simple

The greatest possible interest a person can have in real estate.

Fee simple ownership provides the owner with unrestricted powers to dispose of the owned property as the owner sees fit. Of all types of ownership a person can have in real estate, fee simple provides the greatest amount of personal control.

Fee Simple Estate

An unconditional, unlimited estate of inheritance that represents the greatest estate and most extensive interest in land that can be enjoyed. It is of perpetual duration. When the real estate is in a condominium project, the unit owner is the exclusive owner only of the air space within his or her portion of the building (the unit) and is an owner in common with respect to the land and other common portions of the property.

FHA Coinsured Mortgage

A mortgage (under FHA Section 244) for which the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the originating lender share the risk of loss in the event of the mortgagor’s default.

FHA Loans

With FHA insurance, you can purchase a home with a low down payment from 3 percent to 5 percent of the FHA appraised value or the purchase price, whichever is lower.

FHA mortgages have a maximum loan limit that varies depending on the average cost of housing in a given region. In general, the loan limit is less than what is available with a conventional mortgage through a lender.

FHA Mortgage

A mortgage that is insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Also known as a government mortgage.

With FHA insurance, you can purchase a home with a low down payment from 3 percent to 5 percent of the FHA appraised value or the purchase price, whichever is lower.

FHA mortgages have a maximum loan limit that varies depending on the average cost of housing in a given region. In general, the loan limit is less than what is available with a mortgage through a lender.

Final Walk-Through Inspection

Your sales contract should include a clause that allows you to examine the property you want to purchase within the 24 hours before closing.

This walk-through, during which you will be accompanied by the real estate sales professional, is your chance to ensure that the seller has vacated the house and left behind whatever property was agreed upon.

Make sure to check that all lights, appliances, and plumbing fixtures are in working order.

You will also want to make sure that all conditions of the sales contract have been met. If they aren’t, or you observe major problems, you have the right to delay the closing until the problems are corrected.

One other option is to make sure money to correct the problems is placed in an escrow account at closing to cover the cost of repairs.

Financial Index

An index is a number to which the interest rate on an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) is tied. It is generally a published number expressed as a percentage, such as the average interest rate or yield on U.S. Treasury bills. A margin is added to the index to determine the interest rate that will be charged on ARMs. This interest rate is subject to any caps associated with the mortgage.

The interest rate changes on an ARM are tied to some type of financial index. Some of the most common type of indexed ARMs are:

  • Treasury-Indexed ARMs
  • CD-Indexed ARMs (Certificate of Deposit)
  • Cost of Funds-Indexed ARMs (COFI)
  • LIBOR-Based ARMs

When comparing ARMs, look at how the index to which it is tied has performed recently. Your lender can provide information on how to track the index and a history of the index they use.

Finders Fee

A fee or commission paid to a mortgage broker for finding a mortgage loan for a prospective borrower.

Firm Commitment

A lender’s agreement to make a loan to a specific borrower on a specific property.

First Mortgage

A mortgage that is the primary lien against a property.

A “first mortgage” is the primary lien against a property. The term is usually coined “first mortgage” only when a “second mortgage” is obtained on a property. A “second mortgage” is a lien that is subordinate to the first mortgage. Usually, the interest rates on second mortgages are slightly higher than the interest rates on a first mortgage. The amount of a second mortgage you can take out will depend on the equity you have built up in your home, the appraised value of your property, your credit history, and any other liens you may have against your property, such as a home equity line of credit.

Borrowers will typically get a second mortgage to tap into the equity they’ve built in their home - and use that for home improvements, debt consolidation, medical bills, or other purposes. You apply for a second mortgage with the same process you follow for a first mortgage. However, some of your closing costs may be less.

When you have a first and second mortgage, you theoretically have two loans, both requiring interest and principal payments.

Fixed Installment

The monthly payment due on a mortgage loan. The fixed installment includes payment of both principal and interest.

Fixed-Period Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

This type of adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) maintains the same initial interest rate for the first three, five, seven, or 10 years of your loan, depending on the term you choose. Your interest rate then adjusts annually, and can move up or down as market conditions change. Be sure to ask your lender about the interest rate caps for both the annual adjustments and for the life of the loan.

Advantages:

  • Your initial interest rate will be lower than a fixed-rate mortgage, so you may be able to afford more home.
  • You are protected against interest rate increases for the first three, five, seven, or 10 years of the loan, depending on which type of fixed-period ARM you choose.
  • You may have the option to convert your ARM to a fixed-rate mortgage at the first, second, or third interest rate adjustment dates.
  • You have time to improve your financial position (i.e. salary increases) or accumulate additional assets before the interest rate adjusts at the end of the fixed period.

Details:

  • The lifetime interest rate cap for fixed-period ARMs is typically 5 to 6 percentage points above your initial rate. Your annual cap during the adjustable period is typically 1 to 2 percentage points above or below over the current rate.
  • Can be used to buy one- to four-family residences including second homes and condos, co-ops and planned unit developments. Manufactured homes are also eligible. (Manufactured housing units must be built on a permanent chassis at a factory and then transported to a permanent site and attached to a foundation.)

Fixed-Rate Mortgage

A mortgage in which the interest rate does not change during the entire term of the loan.

Fixed-rate mortgages, the most popular type of mortgage, offer the peace of mind that your interest rate will remain the same for as long as you have your loan. If you expect to live in your home for many years, having the same interest rate may be your key concern. If you decide that you like the stable, predictable payments of a fixed-rate loan, you have the option of choosing from a variety of repayment terms: 15, 20, and 30 years are the most common. Typically, the longer the term of the mortgage, the more interest you pay over the life of your loan. However, stretching out your repayment term means your monthly mortgage payments will be less than they would be with a comparable shorter-term mortgage. Lenders offer a wide array of fixed-rate mortgages:

  • Balloon Mortgages
  • Biweekly Mortgages

Fixture

Personal property that becomes real property when attached in a permanent manner to real estate.

Flood Insurance

Insurance that compensates for physical property damage resulting from flooding. It is required for properties located in federally designated flood areas.

Foreclosure

The legal process by which a borrower in default under a mortgage is deprived of his or her interest in the mortgaged property. This usually involves a forced sale of the property at public auction with the proceeds of the sale being applied to the mortgage debt.

If you repeatedly do not make your mortgage payments on time, your lender could sell your home and evict you from it in a legal procedure called foreclosure. A foreclosure on your property can result in the loss of your home and your good credit rating. Foreclosure is most often a last resort effort that lenders will take if you repeatedly don’t make your mortgage payments. Before going to foreclosure, lenders will work with you if you are facing financial hardships to come up with repayment plans that will let you get back on track and remain in your home.

Forfeiture

The loss of money, property, rights, or privileges due to a breach of legal obligation.

FSBO (For Sale by Owner)

For Sale By Owner, or FSBO, is the process of marketing, buying and selling of real estate without the representation of a real estate broker. FSBO can refer to both the individual selling the property “They are a FSBO,” or the property itself “that house is a FSBO.”

Fully Amortized ARM

An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) with a monthly payment that is sufficient to amortize the remaining balance, at the interest accrual rate, over the amortization term.

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G

General Contractor

A general contractor is someone whom you may work closely with during your home improvement project. The general contractor is the person who oversees the construction project and handles various aspects such as scheduling workers and ordering supplies.

If you are borrowing mortgage funds to renovate a home, your lender may need to review whether your contractor meets all federal, state, and local registration, licensing and certification standards.

Good Faith Estimate

The good-faith estimate is a report from your lender that outlines the costs you will incur to get your mortgage. It is based on the lender’s typical loan origination costs for the area where your home is located. The estimate usually changes between application and closing, so you’ll want to review your settlement form before the closing meeting.

The settlement form will list the actual amount of money you’ll need to bring to closing. You’ll need to pay your closing costs in the form of a certified or cashier’s check because personal checks usually are not accepted.

Government Mortgage

A mortgage that is insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the Rural Housing Service (RHS). Contrast with conventional mortage.

Government National Mortgage Association

A government-owned corporation within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Created by Congress on September 1, 1968, GNMA assumed responsibility for the special assistance loan program formerly administered by Fannie Mae. Popularly known as Ginnie Mae.

Grantee

The person to whom an interest in real property is conveyed.

Grantor

The person conveying an interest in real property.

Ground Rent

The amount of money that is paid for the use of land when title to a property is held as a leasehold estate rather than as a fee simple estate.

Group Home

A single-family residential structure designed or adapted for occupancy by unrelated developmentally disabled persons. The structure provides long-term housing and support services that are residential in nature.

Growing-Equity Mortgage (GEM)

A fixed-rate mortgage that provides scheduled payment increases over an established period of time, with the increased amount of the monthly payment applied directly toward reducing the remaining balance of the mortgage.

Guarantee Mortgage

A mortgage that is guaranteed by a third party.

Guaranteed Loan

Also known as a government mortgage.

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H

Hazard Insurance

Insurance coverage that in the event of physical damage to a property from fire, wind, vandalism, or other hazards.

Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM)

A special type of mortgage that enables older home owners to convert the equity they have in their homes into cash, using a variety of payment options to address their specific financial needs. Unlike traditional home equity loans, a borrower does not qualify on the basis of income but on the value of his or her home. In addition, the loan does not have to be repaid until the borrower no longer occupies the property. Sometimes called a reverse mortgage.

A Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is a type of home loan that lets homeowners aged 62 or over with little or no remaining balance on their mortgage convert their equity into cash. The equity can be paid to the homeowner in a lump sum, in a stream of payments, draws from a line of credit, or a combination of monthly payments and line of credit.

Whatever payment plan you select, you do not have to repay any part of this reverse mortgage until you sell the home or vacate it for an